Thursday, December 18, 2014

Trying to Hook a Great Dinner in Tustin

The Black Marlin
560 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780

It has been sometime since we met my parents for dinner, and we had some wedding details to go over with them. Seating charts, honeymoon options, and rehearsal dinner spots were all on the agenda for this night. We were also going to be catching up with them, since we haven't seen them since Thanksgiving. As usual we always try to pick a central location for us all to meet, which usually lands us in the Tustin area. Lucky for us, I had a restaurant on our list to try in Tustin, The Black Marlin.

Not sure who suggested this place to us, or why I had put it on my list to begin with, but it was there. Opened just over a year ago in charming Old Town Tustin, this restaurant and bar takes over in the historic Tustin Garage that occupies the corner of El Camino and 6th Street. This joint is owned by the original owner of Quinn's, which is down the block. From what I can ascertain, he sold Quinn's to retire, and then realized he missed working, and opened this place in the old Tustin Roadhouse and Beach Pit Barbecue spots. Maybe a change from barbecue would be good for this corner.

We arrived to the Black Marlin without a reservation, but were seated promptly on their heated patio out front. Even though it was raining, the patio was completely covered, and was rather comfortable. We were however cramped in the back table, which was way too close to other tables. Made for an awkward dining arrangement all night. Still we were pretty glad to be on the patio, as it gave us time to talk, and spared us from the rather loud music inside the restaurant. The menu here is seafood driven, with some sandwiches and pasta dishes thrown in for non-seafood lovers. Let's see if the Black Marlin would hook us up with a great meal.

Starting things off, we tried the Garlic Cheese Bread ($5.50) from the appetizer portion of the menu. They say this is great for sharing at the table, and there was definitely enough for the four of us. Wish it had been cut up in pieces, but this was a pretty good garlic bread. A little light on the cheese, but plenty of garlic to go around. The loaf was a little charred on the edges, but the center was nice and soft. We'd get this again for sure.

It's no surprise that Katie started things off here at the Black Marlin with a salad. This Itsy Bitsy Dinner Salad ($5.75) came with greens, feta cheese, tomatoes, and pickled red onion with a citrus balsamic dressing. Katie liked this salad, calling the produce fresh, and liking the addition of the feta cheese, which upgraded this salad from your ordinary dinner salad.

Our waitress really talked up the Clam Chowder ($5.95 for a cup), so both my dad and I ordered it. This was a very buttery clam chowder, almost too much so. All the butter took away from what I had hoped would be a more creamy version of chowder. There was not an over abundance of clams in here either. Not awful, but not one of my favorite versions of this soup.

Yes I know I said this was a seafood focused restaurant, and of course we are starting out the entree portion of our meals with a Cuban Press Sandwich ($13.50). My dad came to the Black Marlin wanting to order this sandwich, and after asking the waitress if it was good, he went ahead and tried it. This sandwich is filled with ham, Swiss cheese, pulled pork, lots of pickles, and mustard all on a French roll. My dad had no complaints about this sandwich. The portion size was a little more than he could handle, so I got to eat a fourth of this. I liked it, but kind of missed the real Cuban bread that helps round out this sandwich.

My mom's favorite seafood dish has to be Fish and Chips ($16.95), because she almost always orders this in seafood restaurants. At the Black Marlin they use halibut to make their fish and chips, which is encased in a beer batter. This fish and chips was not too greasy, and the fish inside was pretty good, but a little on the dry side. I like cod instead of halibut for this dish, but when I used their house made tartar sauce, it had a positive effect on the fish. The coleslaw here was pretty bland. It was too lightly dressed and only tasted like raw cabbage. Not very good. My mom really liked the skinny fries here.

Again, not a fish plate, but Katie beelined it right to this Pesto Chicken Pasta ($15.95). This was probably the best plate of the night. It came with sliced up chicken breast, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms, which were then tossed with pesto and linguini. The pasta was cooked well, and the pesto really brought this plate to life. The chicken was tender, but could have been cut up into more convenient bite sized pieces. This must be a favorite here, because I saw a number of people having this when we were on our way out of the restaurant.

I tried something I had never had before, Stuffed Dover Sole ($24.95). This sole was filled with lobster and a citrus beurre blanc sauce, which also came with a side of risotto and vegetables. This fish was very boring. The fish was bland and the lobster kind of was the same, and I never thought I would ever say that about lobster. This really could have used more of a sauce, like maybe a Bearnaise over the top of it. The risotto was fine, and the veggies were fresh. Probably the best part of this meal were the sides, which is not a good sign.

We were pretty full at this point, but the Memphis Doughnut ($6.75) intrigued us. I love doughnuts and adore dessert, so this was a natural pick. They start with a glazed doughnut, then top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, add a blueberry sauce, and a few blueberries to top it off. I'm not much of a blueberry fan, but it worked here by cutting the sweetness that a chocolate sauce would have added to. This could have been a little better if the doughnut was warmed up a little more, but this was pretty solid.

It's funny, the two people that tried non-fish items here really liked their dinners, and the other two of us were less than thrilled with our choices. I'm not saying to stay away from fish at the Black Marlin though. We might have just picked two seafood items that were not to our liking, or maybe they were just having an off night. There are plenty of other seafood options that might entice us to come back here again sometime. The service we received on this night was warm and friendly. From the hostess to the busboys, these guys were right on top of things. Glad we could finally cross this one off of our list, and it was also great getting together with my parents.

Out of five fishing poles, (because the standing world record for largest black marlin ever caught is 1,560 pounds, off the coast of Peru in 1953), five being best to zero being worst, The Black Marlin gets 2.5 fishing poles.

For more information about the Black Marlin, go to their website here:

Black Marlin on Urbanspoon

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